Alexander & Baldwin offered some short-term security to its sugar employees last week, while simultaneously lobbing the latest grenade in the Maui water wars. In a January 29 release, the company announced that subsidiary Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar will continue operations through 2010, but that future plans are “subject to a favorable outcome in the water cases pending before the State Commission on Water Resource Management…” The release goes on to tout HC&S’s “renewable energy” contribution via the burning of sugar cane remnants. Of course, as former MauiTime columnist Rob Parsons was fond of pointing out, even when sugar is being harvested, the company still burns coal as well as cane bagasse, and when harvesting goes on hiatus, it’s just coal. Makes General Manager Chris Benjamin’s statement that HC&S wants to put “greater emphasis on the production of energy” less than reassuring…. Got word from Ramoda Anand of Maui Dance Advocates that a bill—HB2818—has been introduced on the group’s behalf calling on “each county liquor commission [to] adopt or amend rules regarding the expression or conduct of patrons in premises licensed to sell liquor for consumption thereon…[and to] include a definition of the term ‘dancing.’” For those who haven’t followed the story in LC Watch, MDA—which is two guys, the wheelchair-bound Anand and Anthony Simmons, and their pro-bono attorney, Lance Collins—has been trying to get the Liquor Commission to clarify its ambiguous, Footloose-esque dancing rules for years. They went before the Commission and were denied, then tried the court, twice, and were denied. I have a suspicion the legislature may prove equally unresponsive, but it’s impossible not to admire MDA’s tenacity….
Now that the House and Senate have taken turns passing and killing different versions of the civil union bill, one thing is clear: the state Capitol is running a severe courage deficit. The House’s move last week—tabling the bill without a roll call vote—punctuated the legislative cowardice that has defined this debate from the beginning. Speaker Calvin Say is leaning on the supposed lack of a veto-proof majority, but that rings hollow since Gov. Lingle hasn’t made her intentions public. Sure, given her party’s position, exemplified by Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a veto was a distinct possibility, but why not force the issue? Because it’s an election year, that’s why, and the careers of a few ass-covering lawmakers trumped civil rights. Again…. The fight goes on: In the wake of the civil union non-vote, Lambda Legal and the Hawaii ACLU announced plans to sue the state. “Enough is enough,” said Lambda Legal rep Jennifer Pizer in a statement. “Infinite patience in the face of discrimination is irresponsible. Our clients suffer every day from unfair taxes and denial of basic legal protections…Although same-sex couples can’t hope today for the full equality of marriage, Hawaii’s constitution still guarantees equal rights and responsibilities to everyone, gay and heterosexual alike.” Add the headline-grabbing challenge to California’s Proposition 8 and this is shaping up to be the gay rights movement’s year in court…. For a guy who isn’t officially running for Governor, Mufi Hannemann has raised a lot of dough: $2.3 million through the end of 2009, according to a report filed this week with the state Campaign Spending Commission. That’s $1 million more than his Democratic rival, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, and slightly more than the $2.2 million raised by Aiona. Abercrombie is lagging, in part, because he was prevented from transferring money from his Congressional campaign coffer. In a February 1 release, the Abercrombie campaign said it’s asking contributors to “redesignate” their donations to his Gubernatorial effort. Of course, fundraising isn’t everything; as previously noted in this space, if the Honolulu rail project stalls, no amount of money will dig Hannemann out of that public-relations hole….
Last week, the world lost two literary icons: people’s historian Howard Zinn and reclusive angst-master J.D. Salinger. But take heart—the writing world is in good hands. As first reported by ABC News, Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter’s book, Going Rogue, was a popular title at Sarah PAC, the political action committee headed up by guess who, which spent $63,000 on copies to be used for “fundraising donor fulfillment.” So Palin is taking money from donors ostensibly to forward the Tea Party/FOX News/frothing faux-populist agenda, using it to buy her own book and giving the book to donors (autographed!). Sounds sketchy, but apparently it isn’t illegal because Palin isn’t running for office. If you think about it, there’s really no victim here: people gave cash to Sarah Palin, and they got what they paid for.